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18 October 2007

Michael Moore: hero or villain?

Interviews by Jonathan Beckman

By Staff Blogger

Ken Loach, film-maker (below left)

The films Michael Moore makes are important and valuable. Public consciousness in the States is so driven by the right-wing media that it is very hard to penetrate it. He has done that very successfully. Moore understands how to communicate to North Americans in a way Europeans like myself do not. I would defend his position, his way of working and his way of presenting ideas, but we should understand that they are made for an American audience.

People may charge him with cutting corners but the central theses of his films obviously stand up. If his critics want to expose hypocrisy, why not attack Fox, CNN and the rest of the right-wing media? Moore is the only populist communicator against the war.

Nick Ferrari, radio presenter

His films should come with a government health warning. They are strewn with falsehoods and have as much relevance to global affairs as a Carry On film. Moore is successful because the bigger the lie, the more you tell it, the more people will believe it. If you cook up a conspiracy involving Bush, the Taliban, the Saudis and Osama Bin Laden, many people will believe it because they can’t accept the truth. Michael Moore is like Blue Peter – once they’ve lied, you can’t believe anything they say again.

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Saira Khan, TV presenter (right)

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He raises issues not normally addressed in the US and makes people see both sides of the coin. Generating controversy on big issues is healthy.

Donal Macintyre, investigative reporter

Moore has the satirist’s knife of Swift and the popular touch of Kelvin MacKenzie. I don’t believe he “manufactures dissent”, but I think even he would agree that he manicures it – or redirects it to those parts of the corporate or political anatomy where it really hurts. For ten years, UK TV commissioning editors have been trying to find a British version of Michael Moore. They have found bits of him in Mark Thomas, Bremner, Bird and Fortune and Adam Curtis, but inevitably they’ve failed. He is a one-off.

Sean Langan, director, Fighting the Taliban and Meeting the Taliban

Michael Moore’s production company contacted me when he was making Fahrenheit 9/11 in late 2003. They wanted to buy footage of American soldiers criticising the war. I was in Iraq at the time, and had lots of footage of soldiers openly attacking the whole war. But I also had footage of soldiers backing the war, and suggested Michael Moore should come out to Iraq and – as a documentary film-maker – see things with his own eyes before making up his mind. He declined my invitation, and so I declined to sell him my footage. Unfortunately, this slightly cavalier approach has ultimately got in the way of his films, and has been exaggerated by his detractors, many of whom are paid and are happy to lie when accusing him of falsehood. And yet, despite his faults, Michael Moore is still the most important documentary film-maker working in the world today. Fahrenheit 9/11 is one of the most important documentaries of all time.

Jon Snow, broadcaster

A Bush presidency has necessitated a Michael Moore. He does what he does and what he does makes people think. There is not a factual film in the world that you cannot pick to pieces.

Peter Oborne, political journalist

Michael Moore is a disappointment. His admirers present him as a challenging alternative to the mainstream media. In fact, he is the exact mirror image of the institutions that he attacks. His methodology is flip, vacant and intellectually dishonest. I went to watch Fahrenheit 9/11 in expectation of a serious critique of the Bush presidency and the disastrous Iraq escapade. What we got was a bad film that relied on cheap stunts and emotional manipulation to make its points.